By Nancy Stephens
Customer experience is the new field of competition. In most service industries, all competitors are technically on par. All banks, airlines, universities and other service companies perform the necessary core functions. The quality of the experience they offer is what often drives buyer preference. Thus, it is imperative that managers carefully examine, analyze and understand their services from a customer point of view. A useful tool is service blueprinting.
A service blueprint is a process map that managers draw to visualize each step of the customer’s experience. Unlike most process maps, its primary goal is to:
- understand the customer experience at each step of the service process, and
- capture what is needed for the organization to deliver and support this experience.
Everything is linked to and considered from the customer’s point of view. Through this customer-focused lens, it is possible to see things such as:
- where the customer experiences quality,
- where the customer experiences difficulty,
- what parts of the experience may not be necessary, or
- what things a service provider should add to enhance the experience.
At each customer step, the service blueprint allows you to see the corresponding actions that take place onstage, that customers can see. It also shows actions that are occurring backstage and in support areas, not visible to the customer. Service blueprint maps the entire service and provides a complete view of a service experience.
Service blueprinting is often compared to customer journey mapping. Both methods highlight the touchpoints customers have with an organization. The main difference is that service blueprinting connects each customer touchpoint with the on-stage, back-stage, support and technology actions performed by the service provider to make the touchpoint happen. For example, a service blueprint will show what actions a bank teller, an unseen loan officer and a bank IT specialist have to take for a customer to make an online loan payment.
Service blueprinting can help you answer questions like: Who performs each of the actions that construct the entire service? Are customers overburdened with too many complicated steps? What employee actions have the most impact on delivering positive customer experience? Are any of critical touchpoints are missing or do not take place at the right time?
For example, one training company manager was shocked when she drew a blueprint of her customer’s experience of visiting the company’s website. She had never realized how confusing and complicated the company website was for prospective customers. She explained:
“First, the customer clicks on ‘income tax’ and gets 8 options. She selects ‘advanced courses’ and a list of 37 courses pops up in no obvious order. She backs out and goes back to “income tax’ where she sees the 8 options again. She compares two of them and clicks on the ‘Master Tax’ link, where she can download a 49-page handbook, which is too long to download or read right now. As you can see in the blueprint, it just goes on. The customer must think, if it’s this difficult to get some simple information, what would it be like if I signed up for a course?”
Service blueprinting is also effective for analyzing internal services, where customers are company employees. As an example, the manager of a computer-support department learned through a service blueprint that the first interaction with the technician was the most important moment of truth in computer support service. The technician’s ability to immediately resolve the issue and allow the employee to continue working was the key to positive customer experience. “Employees seem to assume that the technician will have the solution right away. This one moment, at the very beginning of the service process, forms a long-lasting impression of our department,” observed the manager. “The blueprint made us realize that we need to have a database with the most common problems and questions so that our technicians can solve problems right away.”
Over the years, the Center for Services Leadership has shared service blueprinting techniques with many Fortune 500 companies. It is always great to see how this powerful technique can illuminate the customer’s experience and allow organizations to analyze and improve it. We are convinced that service blueprinting should be in the toolkit of every service manager. If you are interested to learn more about service blueprinting, you can find more information on our website. You can also learn this versatile technique in our online Service Blueprinting course.